Saturday, December 17, 2011

But It Wasn't a Dream, It Was a Place

And you, and you, and you...and you were there.

Some lovely memories from my childhood include annual viewings of The Wizard of Oz. I distinctly remember my grandparents plopping my cousins and me in front of the television to watch it every year. Of course, there is an added level of importance due to the fact that Dorothy was from Kansas. Once you leave Kansas and identify yourself as "Kansan" people will inevitably quote or get jazzy with quotes to mock, charm, or make some sort of connection with you. One fine young man once said, "Dorothy, can you help me find my heart?" This was the only quote I enjoyed because it came from a man I would have happily nommed. The ridiculous number of quotes I've heard otherwise is nothing short of...stupid.

Oh ho ho! We're not in Kansas anymore, are we, Dorothy?
There's no place like home, ay Dorothy?

I'll get you my pretty and your little dog, too, baby.


Stupid. But I get it. What else would anyone ever know of Kansas? The opening sequences of The Wizard of Oz are hopelessly depressing, not just because they are in sepia, but because they already look blighted by tornadoes. Friends! It just isn't true! There are trees and hills there. And the flat places are filled with crops...beautiful oceans of crops teeming with life. Just take a trip from KC to Wichita via I-35. You will see the flint hills. So beautiful! Not blighted. I will never forget driving home from visiting the KU campus in Lawrence my senior year of high school. The flint hills were on fire during the seasonal burn. We witnessed this near sundown and I have NO doubt that part of my decision process to go to KU was influenced by this magical sight.

Favorite quote? "What a world, what a world"...but you have love the follow up "who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?" The Wicked Witch of the West scared the living HELL out of me. And her flying monkeys? Terrifying! Even now, watching it just tonight, the sight of those grey, costumed freaks still sent a chill up my spine. It's funny how things from childhood can cast a hook in your mind forever. The Exorcist? Not scary. Monkeys flying? AAAAIIIIGGGHHHHH!!

But the thing that most haunted me as a child was the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West tries to take the ruby slippers from her dead sister's feet...the sight of those feet curling up scared me more than anything. I have no idea why. Though I do admit to a weird foot fear...but I do believe that started when a girl from Isley Elementary came back from spring break with a bandaged foot due to a horrible bike chain accident. That was years after I'd started watching The Wizard of Oz yearly, so maybe that exacerbated my complete freak out regarding foot injuries. Watch it yourself and tell me it doesn't freak you out, too:

A beautiful memory? My grandmother's favorite singer (aside from my mom) was Judy Garland. So whenever I hear "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" I think of my grandmother. We had a complicated relationship for many reasons, but in the end all I can say is that I loved her completely. She was the first person truly close to me that died and I was devastated.

On that note, another weirdly lovely memory linked to The Wizard of Oz is that of one of my grandfather's stories. My grandfather had beautiful hands, worker's hands, but well formed and strong. One oddity: one thumb was stick straight, smooth at the joint. I could make the thumb bend slightly myself, but my grandfather could not. Why? Because he worked at the Coca Cola factory back in 39 and had suffered a terrible accident that left his thumb almost completely severed. It hung by the skin alone. They sewed it back on and the thumb was saved, but there was obvious damage to the nerves that never healed. The story? It was just after this accident that he took his little sisters to see The Wizard of Oz. He was dedicated to those girls, loved them entirely, and would have done anything to make them happy. His memory of this event was of excruciating pain as he sat in the theater with his sisters.

While my grandfather's pain is not a "lovely" thing, the memory of him relating this memory to me most definitely qualifies. I will always associate The Wizard of Oz with my grandfather, both for his brotherly heroics and for the memory of him putting me and my cousins in front of the TV to enjoy the weird, wonderful spectacle of The Wizard of Oz.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This made me think a long time about our grandparents. Thank you.

12:50 AM  

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